The Military Army Blog

Battle of Loos started 100 years ago this week

THE Battle of Loos, which claimed more lives of Leicestershire soldiers than any other battle in the First World War started 100 years ago today (Seprtember 25)

Thanks to the Loughborough Carillon War Memorial Museum s researcher, Marigold Cleeve, the Echo looks back on the 20 men from the town who lost their lives 100 years ago. The Battle of Loos took place from September 25 until October 18, 1915, and, until recently, was less written about than the Battle of the Somme a year later. British losses at Loos were, nevertheless, exceptionally high with some 50,000 casualties, including at least 20,000 deaths.

More men from Leicestershire were killed at Loos than in any other battle before or since. Twenty soldiers from Loughborough died. On the first day of the battle, 8.500 British soldiers were killed and this was the greatest single loss of life since the beginning of the First World War. Among them were nine Loughborough men, mostly from the 2nd Leicestershire Regiment, with two more dying shortly afterwards.

In the second phase of the battle on October 13, seven more Loughborough men, mostly from the 1/4th and 1/5th Leicestershire Regiment, were lost. Two more men from Loughborough died of wounds, one on October 8 and another on October 29. The Battle of Loos was the British component of a major Allied offensive from the north of Ypres to the south of Lens launched simultaneously with a major French offensive in Artois and Champagne. The overall aim was to push the German front line out of France.

While the French were concentrating on Vimy Ridge, the British were expected to advance into the Gohelle plain below, in the area of Loos-Hulluch. The plain was studded with small villages, slag heaps and colliery towers which provided the enemy with substantial cover and bases for look-out points. As a battle site it was far from suitable, and the Allies stocks of ammunition and heavy artillery were too low.

Sir John French, Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force, nevertheless conceded to demands for action by General Joffre, Commander-in-Chief of the French forces, relying on the numerical superiority of Allied forces available – between May and September 1915 up to fifteen divisions of Kitchener s New Army had arrived in France. General Sir Douglas Haig, Commander of the First Army Corps within the British Expeditionary Force, was asked to draw up a battle plan. A preliminary four day artillery bombardment of the German defences, in which 250,000 shells were used, had little effect.

Before sending in the infantry on the morning of September 25, the British, for the first time, released 140 tons of chlorine gas. Unfortunately the wind changed direction at several points along the front and the gas blew back into the British trenches, causing seven deaths and injuring 2.600 soldiers. Despite this major setback, 75,000 British infantrymen went into attack including the 2nd Leicesters (part of the Garhwal Brigade, under Brigadier General Charles Blackader).

The British soldiers at the south end of the attack, camouflaged by a smokescreen, were initially successful and captured the village of Loos and Hill 70. They proceeded towards Lens but came to a halt because of shortage of munitions and the delayed arrival of reinforcements, thus enabling the enemy to recapture Hill 70. The British at the north end of the attack were hampered by the Hohenzollern Redoubt, a defensive strongpoint of the German army, with trenches, underground shelters and machine guns.

Although they broke through part of the German front line here German reinforcements arrived on the following day to fill the gaps. A second attack by the British on September 26, without covering machine gun fire, was disastrous. Thousands of infantrymen were killed by the German machine guns and the British were forced to abandon positions gained the previous day.

The conflict continued on and off for a few days, but eventually on September 28 the British were given the order to retreat. In the three days from September 25 to 28 from the 2nd Battalion of the Leicestershire Regiment 72 men were killed, 217 wounded, 42 were gassed, and 96 were recorded as missing. On October 13 the British made a second attempt to capture the Hohenzollern Redoubt.

This again began with a gas attack and overall proved to be a further disaster, the 46th Division of the Army losing 180 officers and 3,583 men. Soldiers of the Leicestershire Regiment, particularly the 1/4th and 1/5th Territorial Battalions, greatly distinguished themselves in holding up the German advance on this day, but at a terrible cost. The 1/4th Leicesters lost 473 men, including 20 officers.

The 1/5th Leicesters lost 26 men, including four officers; 132 of their men were wounded, 22 men were gassed and 13 men were recorded as missing. Although minor fighting continued for some weeks and discussion went on between French and Haig about the advisability of continuing operations, the Loos offensive was effectively at an end. The failure at Loos was attributed to a number of causes including the exhausted state of the men, the reserve troops being stationed too far from the battlefield, New Army divisions fighting for the first time being unused to battle and not sufficiently trained, the loss of senior officers at critical times, shortage of munitions and poor communication.

As a result of the British failure at Loos Sir John French was replaced by General Sir Douglas Haig as Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force. Loos was not just the battle in which Rudyard Kipling, poet and writer, lost his only son John and Fergus Bowes-Lyon, the brother of the Late Queen Mother, was killed. It also claimed the lives of 20 of our Loughborough men.

The men who lost their lives from Loughborough:

Killed in action September 25, 1915

Sergeant Percy Herbert Allen, aged 31, husband of Violet Edith Maud Allen of 34 George Street, Loughborough, and son of George and Annie Allen of 21 Queen s Road, Loughborough.

Corporal John Glover, aged 23, son of James and Ellen Glover of Loughborough Road, East Leake and 5 Steeple Row, Loughborough.

Private Joseph Thomas Ireland, aged 20, son of Joseph and Emily Ann Ireland, of 67 Oxford Street, Loughborough.

Private Arthur Monk, aged 26, son of Arthur and Mary Elizabeth Monk of 60 Russell Street, Loughborough, and High Street, Quorn.

Corporal Harry Wood Moore, aged 22, son of George Moore of Stapleton, Hinckley and Woodhouse, and Annie Moore of Stapleton, Hinckley, step-son of Mabel Annie Moore of Woodhouse, and brother of Amelia Annie Hall of 6 Fox Yard, Wellington Street, Loughborough.

Private Albert Peak, aged 23, son of Josiah Peak of Sheffield and Kate Peak of 3 Court B, Pinfold Gate, Loughborough.

Private Samuel Robbins, aged 17, son of Edward and Florence Robbins of 23 Sparrow Hill, Loughborough.

Private Albert Stanford, aged 17, son of Samuel and Jane Ann Stanford of 11 Grange Street, Loughborough.

Corporal Edward Watson, aged 28, husband of Mary Ann Watson of 34 George Street, Belgrave, Leicester, son of William Watson and Elizabeth Ann Watson (later Mrs Joseph Mullen Poultney) of 4 Mills Yard, Loughborough. September 26, 1916

Private John Edward Clarke, aged 28, son of John and Eliza Clarke of 31 Hastings Street, and afterwards of 134 Ashby Road, Loughborough.

Lieutenant Edgar Faulks, aged 36, son of Arthur and Emma Faulks of Sparrow Hill, Loughborough. Died of wounds September 26, 1915. October 8, 1915

Corporal Leslie George Hardy, aged 20, son of Samuel and Susan Lavinia Hardy of Woodbrook Cottage, Forest Road, Loughborough.

October 13, 1915

Private James Henry Biddles, aged 19, son of Mrs Sarah Biddles of 32 King Street, Loughborough. His father, James Henry Biddles Senior, had been killed on July 20, 1915.

Sergeant William Frederick Clarke, aged 23, son of Harry and Mary Ann Clarke of 3 Rutland Street, Loughborough.

2nd Lieutenant Howard James Harding Moss, aged 19, son of Wilfred and Elizabeth Maud Moss of The Knoll, Nanpantan, Loughborough.

Private Ernest Newton, aged 31, husband of Annie Newton of 41 Cambridge Street, Loughborough, and son of Aaron and Fanny Newton of 24 Woodgate, Loughborough.

Corporal Thomas William Squires, aged 22, son of Herbert and Martha Squires of 2 Moor Lane, Loughborough.

Lance Corporal Charles Thorne, aged 22, son of George and Kate Thorne of 126 Freehold Street, Loughborough.

Private George Arthur Waterfield, aged 31, husband of Florence Waterfield of 19 Mills Yard, Loughborough, and son of James and Sarah Waterfield of 29 King Street, Loughborough.

October 29, 1915

Private George Lattimore, aged 36, husband of Sarah Jane Lattimore of 17a Dean Street, Oakham, Rutland, and son of William and Mary Lattimore of Oakham. Died of wounds October 29, 1915. [Commemorated on the Carillon, although connection with Loughborough unknown.]

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